New Defensive Tackle Worth A Look

A couple of undrafted defensive tackles made a big impact for the Colts in 2007. Did Bill Polian uncover another gem after the 2008 draft concluded? Brad Keller has the inside analysis.

Scout.com actually had defensive tackle Eric Foster of Rutgers ranked as the 236th player overall in their 2008 NFL Draft rankings. That means that he should have been taken with one of the 252 total selections and that the Colts were even getting good value when the clock wasn't on. 

Teams passed on Foster mostly due to the fact that he's undersized for most NFL schemes at 6-foot-1 and 271 pounds — he actually went into his senior season at 260 — and because he didn't have a huge body of work to pull from.  He really only started in 2007, but he made the most of his opportunity when he did get a chance to contribute on a regular basis. Foster finished his senior year with six sacks, ten tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, and 17 hurries. 

According to veteran scout Tom Marino, he has, "good initial quickness, range (runs well), plays with excellent leverage, and uses his hands well." 

Foster actually reminds Marino of six-time Pro Bowler La'Roi Glover when he was originally drafted out of San Diego State by the Raiders.

"Glover was undersized coming out of school, too.  This guy is a lot like him," Marino said.  "Foster can be disruptive and make some plays.  He doesn't dog it; he doesn't change speeds on each down.  He could be a rotational guy.  If you're looking for someone that can give you different looks, he'd be good for that.  I like him.  I just wish he was bigger."

It looks as though every team in the league agreed with Marino's assessment that Foster was too small to take a chance on during any of the seven rounds in April.  However, Bill Polian obviously saw something he liked.  And a prospect with Foster's draft grade obviously had other suitors.  In the end, this might be the best situation for the young man from Rutgers.


Eric Foster gets his hand up to block a pass against Connecticut in 2006.
AP Photo/Mel Evans

With Ed Johnson and Raheem Brock about as established as a pair of starters can be, Darrell Reid's contributions to special teams and the rotation and Quinn Pitcock's ability to play either tackle position, the Colts are really just looking for a fifth body to add to that rotation and further fortify a position of strength.  Will Joe Bradley — who will be attempting to make an NFL roster for the second time after stints with the Vikings and the Colts during his rookie year — be able to keep Foster off the roster? 

Possibly, but given Foster's quick first step, ability to use his hands to create space, and leverage skills, he could be a perfect fit for the tackle rotation in the Colts Cover 2 defense.  He was certainly able to penetrate into the backfield and make game-changing plays in his limited starting time at Rutgers and, although Reid and Johnson are fine players, they do not possess the kind of natural pass rushing skill that Foster does.  He could step in as a backup for Brock — at 274 pounds, Brock is of similar weight, but is three inches taller at 6-foot-4. That would allow Reid to back up Johnson and keep the versatile Pitcock at the swing position.

Another player who stands in Foster's way is Keyunta Dawson.  The Colts have him listed as a defensive end on their roster, but he started at defensive tackle in four regular season games and in the team's playoff game last year.  Indianapolis sees him as a Montae Reagor-type of player. Like Reagor, Dawson was a DE at Texas Tech, but he has also proven that he can be moved inside in their scheme.  Dawson was drafted in the seventh round last year, so he teams up with Johnson and Pitcock in a very formidable young group that will be difficult for Foster to break into. 

It's true that Foster needs to get bigger and stronger. But unlike other defensive systems where a tackle may be expected to tip the scales at 310 pounds, Foster does not need to add much weight to fit into the Colts scheme.  With a professional level strength and conditioning program, it should be fairly easy to add 10 or 15 pounds of bulk and power, which would allow him to better anchor against the run while not sacrificing too much of that explosive first step.

As an undrafted free agent, he does not need to be the next La'Roi Glover.  The Colts would certainly settle for the next Ed Johnson or Darrell Reid.  Judging by what we've seen, it looks as though Indianapolis has found exactly that.


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